BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Buffalo Philharmonic is celebrating Mozart’s birthday this week with two special concerts, honoring his best work of art.

And a soloist in the show is worth celebrating too.

“My brother and I were just always singing and harmonizing to any song that we heard on the radio,” said Rachel Mikol, a soprano who grew up in Orchard Park.

At Orchard Park High school, Rachel Mikol was involved in the musicals and marching band. She studied Music Education and Vocal Performance at Ithaca College, and then went to graduate school in Indiana.

After graduation, she moved to New York to live out her dream of performing for a living in the Big City.

But behind her big voice is a big, resilient story.

In 2017, while she was still in grad school, Rachel found out she had thyroid cancer.

“My mom looked at me one day after me being home from grad school and said, ‘This lump in your neck looks bigger, maybe you should get that checked out,'” she said. “And I said, ‘Ok, I don’t notice anything because I look at myself every day, but sure.'”

Doctors removed her thyroid. After a short time, she was deemed cancer free.

But four years later, at just 30 years old, she was diagnosed again.

This time, it was breast cancer.

“I was watching a tv show where one of the characters had breast cancer and I just thought ‘Oh, maybe I should do a self exam.'”

That self exam led to her finding a small lump.

The breast cancer would force her into a much tougher treatment than the thyroid cancer years prior. She endured 16 rounds of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, reconstruction surgery and then 28 rounds of radiation.

in July of 2022, about a year after she found the lump, she rang the bell at her NYC hospital, marking the end of cancer… again.

Rachel agrees it can be tough to find success in the industry she’s in. But she said this journey has made her realize the importance of following your dreams.

“You never know what is going to be thrown at you, so you have to make the most of what’s going on in your life and the things you want to do,” she said. “It sounds cliché, but it took having a second cancer for me to realize that and go for it with all I have. I just want to go for the things that I love, and be there for the people who I love and just do the things that mean the most to me.”

Rachel is one of four soloists this weekend performing in ‘Mozart Masterpieces’ on Saturday and Sunday. Acclaimed conductor, Joann Falletta will be leading the BPO those days.

For tickets and more information, click here.